Supreme Court decides Maronda Homes v. Lakeview Reserve
The Supreme Court issued its opinion in the Maronda Homes, Inc. of Florida v. Lakeview Reserve Homeowners Association, Inc., case earlier today. I previously blogged about the case and its ramifications on Florida’s common law implied warranties here. Subsequent to oral argument in that case the legislature enacted Section 553.835, Florida Statutes, which abrogated all common law implied warranties for “off site improvements” as noted here and here.
The opinion recounts at length the procedural and factual history of the underlying case as well as the status of the law regarding common law implied warranties. It is the Supreme Court’s most comprehensive recitation of this area of the law since Gable v. Silver in 1972 and Conklin v. Hurley in 1983.
The original question dealt with whether the underlying 5th District Court of Appeal’s decision was correct, or if a prior 4th District Court of Appeal decision in Port Sewall v. First Federal, controlled. The opinion’s takeaways are as follows:
– The 5th District’s opinion was approved;
– The 4th District’s opinion was disapproved to the extent inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s decision;
– The Lakeview Reserve Association has standing to present a claim for breach of implied warranty under section 720.303(1), Florida Statutes;
– The Supreme Court approved of the reasoning of the underlying opinion;
– The Supreme Court approved and adopted the “essential services” test to determine “whether a defect in an improvement beyond the actual confines of a home impacts the habitability and residential use of the home”;
– Found that although the infrastructure improvements were not physically attached to the home the “component parts provide essential services that directly affect the habitability of the homes…such improvements provide immediate support to the residences. Thus the implied warranties of fitness and merchantability extend to the defects alleged in this case”;
– Section 553.835 cannot constitutionally be applied retroactively to Lakeview Reserve’s cause of action for breach of implied warranty;
– Lakeview Reserve had a vested right in its cause of action for breach of common law implied warranty;
– Retroactive Application of Section 553.835 would offend due process;
– Section 553.835 violates the Constitutional right of access to the courts “because it attempts to abolish the common law cause of action for breach of the implied warranties for certain injuries to property;
– Notes that the intent of section 553.835 was, per its own terms, to “place limitations on the applicability of the doctrine or theory of implied warranty of fitness and merchantability” which was “a clear violation of separation of powers because the Legislature does not sit as a supervising appellate court over our district courts of appeal.”
All-in-all this was as good a decision as could be hoped for if you believe that homeowners should have protections via implied warranties. Four Justices joined Justice Lewis in this opinion. Chief Justice Polston concurred in part and dissented in part, and Justice Canady dissented.